think. feel. do.
do. feel. think.
feel. do. think.


Our goal is to provide a comprehensive overview of the theoretical underpinnings of Copy Testing Research.

The key tenet of our effort is that advertising works on both cognitive and emotional levels. For this reason, we present the views of cognitive processing theorists along with those of the emotions-driven theorists to aid in reconciling the views of the proponents of both (the rational as well as the emotional processing) systems that underlie consumer engagement with the ad. Rather than advocate or reconcile particular copy testing systems, our compilation focuses on scholarly works that are not ordinarily accessible to the researcher or practitioner.

We hope that the site will become a useful jumping off point for the disparate groups of researchers, academics, practitioners and users - people who are interested in thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of copy testing and how it can be applied and improved. 

Nature of Copy Testing

"Memory is a net: one finds it full of fish when he takes it from the brook, but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking"

Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1858 

Copy Testing refers to a wide array of research solutions for evaluating and improving the effectiveness of advertising content. These solutions range from qualitative solutions like focus groups and one-on-one, in-depth interviews to, most typically, small-scale quantitative studies to, increasingly, physiological measurement. The stimulus itself may be in any media, in an early or rough stage of ad development or in its final stages of development prior to production.

A good copy testing method leads to better understanding of the performance of advertising executions and campaigns. It typically provides assessment of how well the execution meets its communication objectives, usually in the context of relevant benchmarks, such as other alternatives and category norms, and identifies the advertisements' strengths and weaknesses.

Copy testing techniques differ widely in both their testing methods and in their measurement metrics. Some of the key dimensions of copy effectiveness are recognition, recall, idea communication, persuasion, liking and engagement. These measures have been validated over the years by various independent and proprietary studies, with the most well-known independent study being the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) Copy Research Validity Project.

Initially, as the history section of this site shows, companies often sold copy testing on the basis of one of these dimensions being more important than another. Today, more companies cover most of all of these dimensions in their testing protocols, although with very different measures and differing interpretations of their value. Survey research is at the core of these designs, but with the increasing interest in understanding emotions-based response, new techniques for gauging emotion using implicit or physiological systems, have emerged.